Movie Review – Thor: Ragnarok
This is the third film with Chris Hemsworth as Thor in the leading role. It’s the 17th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The last movie with Thor as the lead was back in 2013. There have been eight movies in the MCU in between then and now, so there is a lot of material to analyze that probably informs this movie, but the comparison that came to my mind was the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. That summer flick was also owned by Disney and both films are basically adventures that are comprised of comedic, action set-pieces strung together one after the other. The characters and the banter in this movie are a lot funnier than in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, but that Johnny Depp sequel has more interesting action than this movie does.
Both movies feature a lot of CGI, but I get the feeling more practical effects were used in that fifth Pirates of the Caribbean than here. Perhaps, I’m wrong, but that Depp film felt more tactile. Its action set-pieces felt like they had more comedic business, more imagination, more detail than here. All we get here is a lot of repetitive fighting in a lot of inconsequential moments, which ultimately have no weight. Supposedly, the ending is consequential, but it’s perhaps the only consequential moment and yet, it too is rather shrugged off.
Like the opening to Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, the opening scene here is simply meant to be a comical kick-off to this story. It’s not to say the opening scene isn’t important. It does set up what goes down at the very end, which is a bit of a game-changer for Thor, but he behaves like such a goofball for most of this movie that one can’t tell if Thor realizes how much of a game-changer it is. Literally, Thor’s home is totally destroyed and yet it’s treated with less fanfare than the death at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.
Tom Hiddleston (Midnight in Paris and Only Lovers Left Alive) returns as Loki, the god of chaos. At the end of the 2013 film, he had replaced his father, Odin, played by Anthony Hopkins. Loki got rid of Odin and used magic to make himself look like Odin. That seemed like a big deal, but again as we see in this movie, it’s shrugged off. How Loki replaced Odin and managed to banish him to Earth is never explained. Why he couldn’t just make peace with Odin, especially after his sacrifice at the end of the 2013 film, is never explained. This major thing happens and within one minute it’s shrugged off, which is frustrating.
Natalie Portman (Jackie and Black Swan) doesn’t return as Jane Foster, the love interest of Thor in the 2013 and 2011 films. She’s mentioned briefly here, but essentially, she’s shrugged off too. Maybe, the actress refused to return, but the filmmakers could’ve found another actress. Don Cheadle replaced Terrence Howard in Iron Man 2. Maggie Gyllenhaal replaced Katie Holmes in The Dark Knight, so it’s not as if there is no precedent for it. Jane Foster is like the Lois Lane to Thor’s Superman. It’s not right just to shrug her off.
Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine and The Aviator) co-stars as Hela, the goddess of death and sister to Thor. She has super strength, invincibility, great fighting skills and the ability to throw metallic spears and daggers, which she generates from her own hands. She says she’s Odin’s first-born and she’s back to claim the throne of Asgard and become it’s queen and ruler.
She also reveals a more sordid history about Asgard and Odin, which is too shrugged off. She depicts Odin as being more ruthless and conquering than I remembered. Yet, instead of confronting this hidden past and why Odin changed, it’s again shrugged off. Whatever compelling drama could have been mined from this, director Taika Waititi forgoes that drama for cartoonish comedy.
The stage is set for a gladiator-style battle between Thor and Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo. It doesn’t feel as vital or having any stakes, unlike the brief battle between Thor and Hulk in The Avengers (2012). It’s a battle that Waititi’s writers have to find some way out of or some kind of draw and I’m not sure they succeed. Basically, the sequence gets to a point where Thor is about to be killed by the Hulk and the scene just cuts away with no good explanation as to why. The only good thing about it is that it cuts to Hemsworth’s obligatory shirtless scene to show how incredibly muscular his incredibly buff body is.
Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park and Independence Day) plays the Grandmaster, the head of the realm where the gladiator fights happen. Apparently, he stops the battle, but it’s never explained why or to what end when he’s the one who set up the battle. It’s again shrugged off, so Thor can get back to his real fight against Hela.
If one is wondering what the title means. Ragnarok is a prophecy that foretells the destruction of Asgard. Spoiler alert, the prophecy comes true. Yet, the destruction of Asgard is treated like the destruction of Vulcan in Star Trek (2009), if not less. The remaining people of Asgard are essentially refugees who need a home. If there’s another stand-alone Thor movie, finding a new home would be a great story-line. I wish it were the story-line here. As such, there is no story-line.
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and action, and brief suggestive material.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 mins.